This story took place a long time ago, a few years after the end of the Vietnam War. About 30 years old, I had accepted a teaching job in Bangkok. I knew nothing about the nightlife scene. Coming from the “frozen tundra” of Minnesota, I
was just looking for a warmer climate in which to live and work. A week after starting my job a colleague invited me out one night for a few beers. He took me to Patpong. What an amazing place that was!
There were shapely, smiling go-go dancers right in front of your eyes. No “showing” then. And friendly, personable girls coming to sit with you and chat. Their English was pretty good. I loved it! The bars were comfortably full. Vietnam War had been forgotten, tourism was picking up, and Bangkok had a fairly sizable ex-pat community. My friend did not explain “the system” to me, so I did not know that many of these girls were available to go out. Anyway, I was rather shy. But I had such a good time that first night that I kept going back to Patpong two or three nights a week.
I soon started taking girls back to my apartment. I had some good times, and some just so-so. My drinking pals and I stuck pretty much to five or six bars. We often stopped in Safari just to watch Joy and Blaine get up on the stage and dance a few numbers. Terrific stuff! And there I became enchanted with a charming, leggy dancer, with long hair down to her waist. But that fling did not last long; she was quite popular in the bar, and not too impressed with a poor teacher living in a small apartment.
There were about 25 bars in all in Patpong 1 and Patpong 2. Whenever I went out alone I made a point of trying a new place. One night I found myself standing in front of a bar I had never noticed before, somewhere near Napoleon and Madrid. So I went into Silk Club.
Small and rather drab, Silk Club had seem its better days perhaps ten years before. There was a long bar along the left, booths on the right, and a small go-go stage with two poles in a back corner. When the girls weren’t dancing they put on short silk robes, served drinks, and sat with customers. This place was boring, and I was about to leave. Then a stunning, curvaceous girl got up to dance. She smiled at me, so I ordered another beer and waited for her to come down. I bought her a drink and met the vivacious Apple. I kept going back to that bar.
I soon discovered that there were, in fact, two of them, identical twins, Apple and Cherry. From Chiang Mai, they had the classical Northern features: light skin, very black hair and dark eyes, nice cheek bones, small nose, and full lips. It was confusing at first, but it became clear that they had very different personalities. Apple was lively and flirtatious, a foxy dancer. Cherry was shy and quiet, and just shuffled when she danced. I was more attracted to Cherry, and sat with her every time I went to the bar.
As we spent more and more time with each other we became more fond of each other. Unlike most girls in the bars Cherry had goals. She wanted to attend business college and then get a “proper” job in an office. She respected the fact that I was a teacher. Her English was good, and she was bright. She never talked about her family, just about the future. Cherry was trying to save money, and she thought Apple spent too much. And she complained about Apple’s uninhibited behavior in the bar.
A few times we got together on weekends for lunch and a movie. And some nights I went to the bar late, had a few beers with Cherry, and when the bar closed took her to Tip-Top for phat thai noodles. There was never a question of her going back to my apartment with me. Cherry was a virgin and intended to stay that way until marriage. But she did begin using that four-letter word, L-O-V-E. Yes, we were falling in love. And after she got a job in an office we could start planning to get married. It had been a long time since any girl anywhere had said that she loved me. “Let’s go for it!”
I did not get to know Apple very well. She pretty much stayed away from me. She knew I was Cherry’s customer, and that Cherry liked me a lot. But a few times when I went in the bar Cherry was in the back, in the restroom or dressing room, and Apple sat down with me. We exchanged some chit-chat and banter while waiting for Cherry to come out. Yeah, I liked Apple, too. She was a lively, free-spirited girl. And they looked exactly alike!
About once a week Cherry called in the middle of the night. It was always the same. Apple had just come back from having sex with a customer, and Cherry was very upset. She just needed to talk. Apple shouldn’t do that, they did not need the money. They made enough from their salaries, lady drinks, and tips. I told Cherry to be nice to her sister, be forgiving and supportive. “But Apple is so dirty!” Then we would talk about when we would next get together, and Cherry always finished up by asking, “Do you still love me?” And I always replied, “Yes, very much.”
One night I went into Silk Club as usual, and looked around for Cherry. One of the girls told me that she had not come to work that night. I sat down on the first stool at the bar and ordered a beer. Soon I spied Apple in the mirror behind the bar, sitting at the other end with a customer. She saw me, too. After a few minutes she got up and, fixing me with a sly smile, slowly slithered towards me. She entwined her arms about my neck and flicked her tongue in my ear. Then Apple whispered huskily, “Take me tonight!”
My brain started spinning. “How can I resist this Delicious Delight! No, it is Cherry that I care for. No, that relationship is going nowhere, just a lot of vague talk about having a future together. I think this is what I have been hoping would somehow happen all along. But Cherry is so loving and trusting. Apple or Cherry? Apple or Cherry?” I pulled Apple to me, and we kissed long and deeply.
Back at my apartment the magnetic force that had been building for months between us locked us in a passionate frenzy. It was wild, and it was meant to be. All too soon it was over. We held each other for a long time, happy that this had happened.
Apple was hungry and found some instant noodles in the kitchen. We talked while we ate. She knew a lot about me from Cherry. I knew little about her. Her father had run off years ago, and her mother was in ill health. Two younger children were still in school. She had come to work in the bar to help her family. She felt it was her duty. At first she hated it. Gradually she got used to it, and Cherry joined her. She wished that she could find a good man to love and take care of her, and she would love such a man with all her heart. I began thinking this girl was not some evil temptress, but a very attractive girl with normal hopes and needs. She was just trapped in the bar scene. I was falling for her. Maybe, “I be Da Man!” We went back to bed and played around:
We laughed and we joked,
And we giggled and poked;
We tickled and teased,
And nibbled and squeezed.
We both became aroused and wanted each other again. This time slowly, very slowly, making every precious moment last. Our rhythmic motions became faster, more urgent. Overwhelmed with ecstasy I ended with a bang, Apple with moans, and a whimper. After showers she rolled over against me and laid her head on my shoulder. Relaxed and content, she soon fell asleep. For a while I relished the feel of her body against mine, and her hair against my cheek. As I fell asleep my last thought was, “I think my life is going to change.”
The next afternoon the phone rang. Cherry was crying. Apple had told her everything. How could I do that? She thought I loved her. Now she knew I didn’t. She hated me, and she hated Apple. She told me never to come back to the bar again. Still sobbing, she rang off. So, I had fallen to temptation and was now cast out. I felt bad about hurting Cherry, but I very much wanted to see Apple again. Cherry stood between us. The situation was just so complicated. What to do? I did not go back to Silk Club.
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Well, that is not the end of the story. After a few months Silk Club closed down. Soon, under new ownership, Natchez Queen appeared in its place. A much fancier décor, with lots of chrome, mirrors, and flashing lights, and lots of girls, it had pedestals above the bar for go-go dancers, much like its sister bar down the street. I went in a few times and asked about Apple and Cherry. Nobody knew them, they did not work there.
Months went by, maybe a year. I found other places to drink and have fun. Silk Club was forgotten. One night I dropped into Lucky Star, one of my favorite places, but I hadn’t been there for a while. I sat down at the bar and ordered a beer, and started scanning the dancers on the platform in front of me. The service girl who brought the beer sat down on the stool next to me. I didn’t pay much attention, she looked rather plain and older than the other girls. Suddenly she spoke. “Hello, Adam, do you remember me? I am Apple.” I spun around and gazed in disbelief. Her hair hung limply down the sides of her face, her complexion was pale and dry, her eyes were dull, and her body rather shapeless. Most noticeable of all was a discolored bulge along one side of her jaw. It must have been broken and never set back quite right. Apple understood the look on my face: “Yes, I know, I was beautiful before, but now I am not.” I bought her a drink, and she told me her story.
Apple had stayed at Silk Club until it closed, but wasn’t making much money. She started drinking more and more Mekhong whiskey and smoking “Thai sticks”. Many nights she did not make it to work. After the bar closed she started freelancing down Silom Road in the hotel district. She loitered in the shadows, sat in coffee shops, and sometimes scored short-times in the hotels off the bellboys. There was a rough crowd on the streets at night. She got into fights, sometimes picked up by the police and fined, and she started using hard drugs. She stole some clothes from a shop and ended up in a police station cell. Fortunately a social worker took an interest in her and gave her a choice: go to prison or go into a drug rehab program. Apple chose the latter.
She was sent to a temple upcountry, Ang Thong Province I think it was. Near a river, it had a lush, beautiful, peaceful setting. The 30-some girls led a simple, regimented life: religious instruction and meditation, doing chores like cooking and washing clothes, working in gardens and orchards, tending chickens and fish ponds. Evenings they had group therapy sessions, and developed bonds of friendship and support. They were given herbal medicines to cleanse the drug poisons from their bodies. Apple had not been on drugs all that long, and withdrawal was easier for her than for many of the others. She was taught how to grow various vegetables, and working in the gardens gave her a sense of purpose and accomplishment. After five months she was released.
Apple came back to Patpong to earn some money as a service girl. Her goal was to soon move back home with her mother in Chiang Mai. She would grow vegetables and sell them in a market. She had stayed clean of drugs for the two months since her release. Hesitantly I asked about Cherry. While Apple was still at Silk Club and zonked out of her mind most of the time, Cherry got disgusted and moved out. Apple did not know where she had gone or what had happened to her. “Just as well” , I thought. Now that Apple was pulling her life back together she did not need Cherry around telling her all the time what a bad girl she was.
Apple laid her hand on mine. Maybe she was remembering our one night together. I was. I smiled at her tenderly, a smile that said, “You are still beautiful in my heart.” For the first time she smiled, and for a few seconds I saw a glimmer of the Apple I had known long before. A flush started up my neck and over my face. I was overwhelmed with sadness and regret. I felt so hot I had to get out of there. I paid the bill and put a 100-Baht note in her hand (about 400- in today’s money). She wai’d me. I stood up, held her shoulders a moment, and then rushed out.
Outside I just stood there for a while, gasping for air, trying to calm down. Groups of men went by, entering nearby bars to drink and look for sex-partners. Couples walked by, girls hanging on the arms of their guys, headed perhaps to shabby short-tine hotel rooms, where the girls would do whatever pleased their customers and make some money. I couldn’t help thinking that all too soon many of these cheerful girls would be sad cases– damaged, broken, perhaps disfigured. Suddenly I hated Patpong! I took a taxi home.
Back in my apartment I sat in the dark for a long time, drinking beer and thinking about Apple. I kept seeing the vision of her forlorn lopsided face. I felt guilty, somehow responsible. I had driven a wedge between her and Cherry. Maybe Cherry helped keep her out of trouble. Maybe I should have gone back to Silk Club and taken Apple out of there and moved her in. I would have been good to her, and she would have loved me. What should I have done differently? I just didn’t know.
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No, I do not think I was responsible for what happened to Apple. Her slide downward had begun well before that fateful night I first stepped into Silk Club. You see, I have not been telling quite the whole story. Apple and Cherry were not twins. They shared the same body.
There are a lot of sad stories in the bar industry…